According to NorthJersey, St. Paul of the Cross Church priest, Donato Cabardo, is charged with sexually molesting and harassing a woman in the church.
Cabardo allegedly touched the victim’s rear end and breast two times, once in January and again in July. The victim reported Cabardo to Archdiocese of Newark, which then reported his actions to the New Jersey Clergy Abuse Task Force and the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office. Cabardo is temporarily removed from public ministry.
Although charged with criminal sexual contact and harassment, he has been released pending an appearance in court.
Attorney contributor Brian Kent, an experienced sexual abuse lawyer in New Jersey, represents victims of sexual abuse and their families in civil lawsuits. In an interview, we asked Brian to share his insights about the rights of victims sexually abused by a priest.
Is a church legally obligated to uphold the safety of its members?
“Sexual predators often place themselves in positions of trust and power to commit abuse; these predators are sometimes found in churches as they exploit their victims. This exploitation is seen across all religious organizations, as numerous religious leaders have been charged with sexually abusing congregation members. Churches are legally obligated to do their best to uphold their member’s safety and stop predators.”
Can a victim sue a church for sexual abuse by a clergy member?
“A church can be held liable for not upholding the safety of its member’. In some cases, sexual abuse only happens due to negligence on behalf of the religious organization. An example of negligence is if complaints were filed against an active clergy member and the allegations were ignored. In cases of negligence, the religious organization could be considered negligent. Victims and their families should know in cases of negligence; they may have grounds for a lawsuit.”